As the dust settles on the election I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for the phenomenal support you have given me and the Liberal Democrats over the past few months. Too many messages have come in by phone, e-mail, text and twitter in the past 48hrs for me to be able to respond individually, but please know that your support and good wishes for the future mean an awful lot to me. For close family it has been a particularly testing time – thank you for your patience, love and support throughout. It’s not easy living with a parliamentary candidate 150% focused on the task at hand!
On all levels I think we can be proud of what we achieved. Five years ago in the General Election, with your generous support, we secured 10,500 votes. This was the best result for the Liberal Democrats in the Brentford & Isleworth constituency in about 100 years. This time you set another record. Almost 13,000 votes and at 23.7% of the vote, an increase of 0.7% in our percentage vote share. I am of course disappointed that more Labour and Conservative supporters did not back us. However I appreciated many people felt the safest way to get rid of the incumbent Labour MP under the present voting system was to vote Tory, and others felt a continued loyalty to old Labour party values, if not our former MP. I hope you continue to look closely at the Lib Dems’ manifesto in the years ahead and consider giving us your support next time.
I wish our new MP the best of luck in her new post, but re-iterate my challenge to her on Heathrow: we must bring back the Cranford Agreement to stop Heathrow’s expansion by stealth and instead focus on developing a more diverse local economy.
Many have asked what happened to the Clegg bounce? Well locally it gave us a substantial surge in volunteers and funding in the final six weeks. What it could not make up for was decades of big spending on marketing and “voter ID” by Labour in this constituency -- and also the Tories in the past few years. Thursday’s result proves how winning today’s elections still depends on big spending over a prolonged period of time and then being able to mobilise those identified supporters on election day.
In the local elections our strong support was swamped by voters who usually only turnout to vote in the General Election and suddenly found themselves voting in the local election too. Their General Election voting pattern – Labour or Conservative – was simply transposed onto the local election ballot. All thirteen Independents and Lib Dems on Hounslow Council lost their seats. Hounslow is a two party state again. I fear the quality of decision making in Hounslow will be poorer for the lack of diversity of political perspectives. This illustrates clearly the desperate need for reform in the local, as well as national voting system.
It has been a wonderful privilege representing the people of Brentford over the past four years and I will of course continue to support local projects and organisations.
Hung Parliament negotiations
I know from the messages that that have been sent to me that our many progressive supporters have real anxieties about any deal with the Tories. Let’s see what the next few days brings. As Stephen Tall writes on Lib Dem Voice
, there is unfortunately no right answer for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrat party. All options come with problems. Our priority now must be to ensure stable Government and delivery of as much of our key election commitments as possible.
What I am absolutely clear about – and will say in all my communications with senior colleagues in the hours and days ahead – is that any deal must include Proportional Representation. A short timetable for a referendum must be set out, and any group set up to manage the process should take as their starting point the conclusions of the Jenkins Commission
. Such is the crisis in our democracy that our political system must be reinvented to give voice to all in our society. As the next Government seeks to reduce the nation’s debt, a stronger democracy must also be seen as intrinsic to how Britain will best cope with the difficult fallout from the essential restructuring our economy and welfare state face ahead.
On personal level I am re-entering the job market after eight months full time on the campaign. (Let me know if you spot any exciting job opportunities!) Hounslow Liberal Democrats come out of this contest with more supporters and new members than ever before. In the coming weeks we will reflect on lessons to be learned from this campaign and plan our campaign strategy for the next few years -- do stay in touch and get involved. Let’s hope we are preparing soon for a campaign for PR in a referendum on electoral reform.
Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend our post election Summer party on Sunday 13 June at The Cedars, 2 Upper Butts, Brentford. £10 per head, with money raised going toward our campaign fund!